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Yes, it would be a couple of years before I would see him again and once again it would be twice in close succession – the second of which was in a way I never expected.
I was 11 years old when I saw The Cold Man next. I remember it well because it was the night before our first day of “big school” as I called it then, well we all called it that didn’t we before we started? Now it’s the last school and when you’ve left (as I did a few months ago) it becomes “school” as though nothing existed before.
Anyway, it was the night before the first day of “big school”. I woke up sometime around 3am bursting for a wee. This was September of course and daylight was at least three hours away so I couldn’t hold it in. I padded out the room determined not to wake Lizzy. When I got to the top of the landing I stopped, listening for a sound – some reassurance from mum or dad but their room was soundless, not even a snore, a cough or a ruffle of the duvet; all I could hear was the incessant hollow uck, uck, uck of the grandfather clock at the bottom of the stairs.
I crept along the landing, taking care to avoid the creaky floorboard, nimbly hopped over it, slipped into the bathroom and closed the door behind me. It was silent and still in the bathroom and in the two minutes I was in there, only a single car driving along the road reminded me that the world was still alive. I quickly did what I needed to do and slowly opened the bathroom door. Making sure all was clear, I crept back along the landing trying to move my steps in time with the uck, uck, uck, hopping over the creaky floorboard again and turned into the room.
There he was. Standing over the bed looking down at my sister sleeping soundly in her bed. I froze to the spot – do I challenge him? Throw myself at him? Scream for dad? Scream for mum? Scream for Lizzy?
‘What the hell?’ I heard dad bellow before his charging footsteps came pounding towards his bedroom door. Almost at once, Lizzy sat bolt upright in the bed and The Cold Man was gone – he didn’t even disappear in a puff of smoke or anything like that, he was just gone. Dad was at my side in a matter of seconds and mum was right behind him. I felt like an idiot stood in the doorway staring into the middle of the room having just screamed my lungs out for no apparent reason.
Dad put an arm around my shoulders. ‘What’s wrong Kelvin?’
I couldn’t speak -I was rooted to the spot and pointing at Lizzy.
Mum came to my other side and starting brushing my hair. ‘Kel, you look terrified.’
I was terrified. My pulse was going mental and I still couldn’t move. ‘H-he was there again.’
‘Who?’ mum asked, ‘who did you see?’
‘The Cold Man!’ I shouted.
‘Who is he?’
I reminded them of the time on the bridge after grandma had died; dad remembered but mum didn’t. Dad remembered because he has a friend who is a child psychologist and he asked him about it. Apparently, the friend said it’s understandable for children to see things following a trauma and I’d grow out of it. I never saw him again so dad thought no more of it.
That night, dad got the sleeping bags out of the wardrobe and we both slept on their floor. We were both too big to sleep in their bed with them. The next night, we were back in our beds.
On the Saturday, dad took us to the Pitt Rivers Museum. Even at that age I loved going to see old stuff. It made me uncool with some of the kids but I didn’t care. Anyway, the museum had a special talk that day. Lizzie didn’t want to go and listen to a boring talk so her and mum went to the park.
It was in that talk I saw The Cold Man again and what’s more, everyone else could see him that time.